Types of Solid Waste: Municipal Vs. Non-Municipal

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  • 0:05 What Is Solid Waste?
  • 1:17 Municipal Solid Waste
  • 2:56 Non-Municipal Solid Waste
  • 5:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Cunningham

Margaret has taught many Biology and Environmental Science courses and has Master's degrees in Environmental Science and Education.

Waste comes in many different forms. This lesson explores municipal and non-municipal waste, the two main types of solid waste. We'll also delve into who creates waste and the amount of waste disposed of each year.

What Is Solid Waste?

Take a minute and think about all of the items you dispose of each day. During a given day, we throw out a variety of items, including uneaten food, junk mail, broken items, and packaging materials. Although we just call these items trash, formally, these items are examples of solid waste.

Solid waste is a general term used to describe objects or particles that accumulate at the location where they are produced. Now, think back on the amount of waste you produce each day and multiply that by 300 million, which is the approximate population of the United States. That would be one large pile of waste! In fact, each year in the United States, over 11 billion tons of solid waste is disposed of. Due to the large variety of items that are considered solid waste, the type of waste is often divided into two categories. The categories of solid waste are referred to as municipal solid waste and non-municipal solid waste, and these two types of waste vary by where the waste originates.

Municipal Solid Waste

Municipal solid waste refers to any non-liquid waste that is created by an individual person, household, small business, or institution, such as a school or hospital. This type of waste is commonly called trash or garbage and includes everyday items, things that are broken, food that has spoiled, or simply any item a person no longer needs or wants. The most common items disposed of as municipal solid waste are paper, yard trimmings, food, plastics, metals, rubbers, and textiles. In recent years, the amount of electronic waste, also known as e-waste, has increased drastically as people become more reliant on electronics, such as computers and cell phones that are replaced and disposed of frequently.

Based on the definition of municipal solid waste, the waste that you dispose of every day would fall into this category. In the United States, people produce around 220 million tons of municipal solid waste each year. Although it is necessary to dispose of items, the shocking fact is that 25 million tons of the total amount of municipal solid waste is something that is valuable and important for human survival - food! Food accounts for a large amount of waste each year. It is estimated that nearly one-quarter of the food produced is disposed of. In a world where some people are struggling to get enough food to survive, this statistic is alarming and bothersome.

Non-Municipal Solid Waste

Although municipal solid waste is what we as individuals are used to, there is another type of waste that produces much larger quantities of material. Non-municipal solid waste is any non-liquid waste that is created due to the production of a product. Although products can sometimes turn into municipal solid waste themselves when they break or are done being used, non-municipal solid waste refers to any waste that is created while the product is being manufactured and before it reaches the consumer. The amount of non-municipal solid waste fluctuates more than municipal solid waste because it is influenced by changes in consumer demand and consumption.

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